Legendary Singer-Songwriter Gordon Lightfoot Dead at 84
Gordon Lightfoot, who shot to fame on the strength of a string of hits in the 1960s and '70s, has died. His publicist, Victoria Lord, confirms to CBC News that the iconic singer-songwriter died on Monday night (May 1). He was 84 years old.
Born in Orillia, Ontario on Nov. 17, 1938, Lightfoot demonstrated an early aptitude for music as a choir singer before he was even in his teens. He learned a variety of instruments as a teen, and when he finished high school, he moved to California to study music at Westlake College of Music in Hollywood, where he spent two years before returning to Canada.
Lightfoot released his debut album, Lightfoot!, in 1966, and he became one of the leading lights of the Canadian folk scene with songs including "Ribbon of Darkness," "Spin Spin," "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" and more. He signed with Warner Brothers in America in 1970, and he became even more successful, scoring a string of enduring folk, pop and country hits including "If You Could Read My Mind," "Beautiful," "Sundown," "Carefree Highway," "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," "Dream Street Rose" and more that carried him into the '80s before his commercial fortunes began to decline.
The Canadian troubadour's career was punctuated by a sometimes turbulent personal life that included a bout of alcoholism that he beat in the '80s, as well as a very public divorce from his first wife, Brita Ingegerd Olaisson, in 1973. The couple had two children together, Fred and Ingrid.
He then had a stormy relationship with Cathy Smith, who was later convicted for supplying the drugs that killed John Belushi. Lightfoot married Elizabeth Moon in 1989, and they had two children, Miles and Meredith, before divorcing in 2011. He married Kim Hasse in 2014. Lightfoot also had two other children, Gaylen McGee and Eric Lightfoot, from two other relationships.
In January of 2002, Lightfoot suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm that left him in a coma for six weeks, but he recovered well enough to return to performing in June of 2004. He suffered a minor stroke in 2006 that made him have to re-learn how to play guitar again, but the music icon continued to record and tour even into his later years.
Gordon Lightfoot won a career total of 16 Juno Awards. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1986, followed by Canada's Walk of Fame in 1998 and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. He became a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honor, in May of 2003, and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012.
Variety reports that Lightfoot died at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Monday evening. No cause of death has been reported. He is survived by his wife, Kim, six children and several grandchildren.